In addition to the obligatory yellow festival bag, one of the most popular accessories on the festival grounds this year is the face mask – casually attached to the forearm, mind you. Always ready to hand, but often no more than a sign of good will. Finally, before each performance, the audience is made aware by a friendly announcement that mask protection is strongly recommended.
And did someone claim that patient insistence is useless? Towards the weekend, masks are seen more and more often in the audience, even if participation is likely to be less than 50 percent – although there are now cases of Covid even in personal circles. Beyond the festival palazzo, reality looks very different again. Sunday afternoon on the Lido feels so carefree, nobody wants to spoil it while strolling around with a mask. The restaurants are full too.
Masks were also unable to assert themselves on the screen during the pandemic. American director Ti West found an original trick for this, setting his horror film “Pearl”, the prequel to the 1970s slasher homage “X”, in 1918. The war in Europe is on its last legs, the new military mobility has spread the Spanish flu across the globe. Pearl (Mia Goth) is isolated by her domineering mother out of fear on the family’s small farm in Texas. But the girl slips away – of course to the cinema, where behind the face mask she dreams of a career as a dancer. In the cinema, even in the cinema, masks are worn.
A (quasi) lockdown film from script hell, on the other hand, is Darren Aronofsky’s bizarre chamber drama “The Whale”, in which Brendan Fraser celebrates his screen comeback in a fat suit as an obese man who is about to have a heart attack with his spoiled daughter (“Stranger Things” star Sadie Sink) wants to reconcile. Aronofsky still seems well-liked on the Lido, despite his misogynistic psychological horror film Mother!, which was booed here when it premiered in 2017. One increasingly wonders why.
“The Whale” is unintentionally funny for long stretches, soon becoming uncomfortably speculative. The various visitors in the gloomy apartment repeat themselves so often that the sight of Charlie does not put them off until the film itself no longer believes it. The only expression left to Fraser are his eyes – or when he lifts his 200 kilos off the couch. Where “The Wrestler” still worked dramaturgically because Aronofsky reflected his character’s story in the biography of his star Mickey Rourke, “The Whale” is just a sad spectacle.
The actress Virginie Efira seems to have an identity-forming role for the generation of French filmmakers born around 1980. You can see why in Rebecca Zlotowski’s portrait of a woman “Other People’s Children”, in which Efira plays a woman around 40 with a pronounced desire to have children. Instead, Rachel falls in love with the older Ali (Roschdy Zem) and develops an intimate bond with his four-year-old daughter. At the same time, she has to realize that she will always be the outsider in the blended family.
Zlotowski arrives at the Lido with advance praise, her film initially seems more conventional than her feminist coming-of-age drama “A Light Girl”. What they both have in common, however, is a cliché-free view of supposedly typical female figures. In the Venice competition, which again has weak quotas, Zlotowski is in good hands.